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NCEIT Summary of Poll Observer Bill for Legislation Action Days

Bill – To Clarify Poll Observer Appointments, Access and Permitted Activity

The Problem

· NCGS Chapter 163-45 specifies that there shall be no more than three observers in the voting enclosure and requires no more than two be precinct-specific and no more than one be at-large; when maximum ought to be three observers regardless of source- at-large or precinct-assigned.

· Neither the NCGS nor the NCSBE (in administrative code) has defined the term “impede the voting process” as referenced in the statute, which leads to ambiguity in interpretation.

· Observer access to information about those who have voted is limited to “not less than 3 times during election day with spacing not less than one hour apart” and “at times specified by the State Board of Elections” conflicts with 163-45(c) allowing free access for observations in the voting enclosure.

· The statute is unclear about reasons and authority to remove an Observer.

· Local boards of election are inconsistent in limiting Observer access to the entire voting enclosure, except where restricted by statute, often leading to a violation of 18 US Code 245 which protects “poll watcher” activities.

· The statutory definition of “voting enclosure” does not extend to include “curbside voting” which should be an extension of the voting enclosure.

· General Statute Chapter 163 assigns no penalty for not following the provisions outlined in Chapter 163.

The Solution

· There is no need to specify the type of observers (precinct specific or at large) so long as no more than three are permitted in the voting enclosure. Any combination of the two observer types is adequate.

· A definition for “impede the voting process” should be introduced in statute.

· Clarification is needed to describe activities that Observers shall be allowed to perform within the voting enclosure- including unrestricted access to and observation of the registration table and check-in of voters, the ballot table, the Help Desk, the ballot marking area, curbside voting, and the tabulation/counting machine, so long as the voter’s ballot markings are not viewed and the voting process is not impeded.

· The timeframe on accessing information for those that have voted should not be limited for Poll Observers.

· Procedures for warning and removing an Observer for unpermitted activity must be prescribed.

· Extend the definition of “voting enclosure” to include the space inside a vehicle with a voter(s) at curbside voting. Apply all voting enclosure restrictions to the space inside a vehicle in curbside voting.

· Prescribe penalty for unlawfully restricting the permitted activities of Poll Observers- preferably a Class 1 misdemeanor.

See Also

Heritage Standard “Allow election observers complete access to the election process.”

Contact: North Carolina Election Integrity Team (NCEIT), Jim Womack, Tel. (919) 770-4783

Paid for by North Carolina Election Integrity Team (NCEIT)


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